Hometown: Fort Worth, TX
Undergraduate University: Belmont University
Class Year: 2015
Major/Minor: Non-Profit Management & Social Entrepreneurship
Employer: Escalante Golf/Kingsmill Resort
Ryan McDonald was fresh from her undergraduate studies with a few years of work experience in sales at Warby Parker when she made the decision to move back home to Texas and join her family's business. Her first assignment was to relocate to Williamsburg, Virginia, and manage the company's newly acquired property, Kingsmill Resort.
"I've always wanted to get my MBA, but I was thinking that I would do it down the line. I didn't think I'd be getting it this soon. I honestly didn't think I could," she explains.
After exploring other local, part-time programs, Ryan submitted an inquiry to William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of Business, thinking she would start a program once she acquired some more work experience. But an invitation to visit campus from Amanda Barth, the Director of the Full-Time MBA program, rapidly and drastically changed Ryan's trajectory.
"We discussed my goals in the position I was in and how it's unique in the fact that it's a family business. I will be expected to have certain traits and qualities that people my age and with my experience don't have or aren't expected to have just yet," she says. "She explained that any experience you have can contribute to the classroom and be a valuable aspect of the learning experience for everyone."
Ryan spoke with her supervisor and with her family and decided to take a chance on the full-time program at William & Mary.
"I think I questioned a lot if I really needed an MBA. When I learned more about this program, I saw they're trying to make you a better employee or employer overall. That's what's valuable about an MBA from William & Mary," she says. "I think the purpose of this program is really to make people who are game changers and who are able to adapt to their environment. I think more than ever that's really important to the workforce."
While her work-life balance is tricky to maintain—Ryan attends class full-time during the week and then works on the weekends—she's found it rewarding to apply her classroom learnings in real-time to her job. Her experience has also inspired her to devise creative ways to grow her family's business in the areas of social responsibility and charitable work.
"I really wanted to find a career where I could make money like businesses do but use that money to help non-profits. My family's business owns and operates golf properties and resorts, but they use that as a funding vehicle to distribute profits to different faith-based Christian ministries, as well as organizations for education, industry, or economic development. It's the foundation of what they do," she explains. "It's inspired me. I think they could make a bigger impact if they have someone devoted to figuring out the best way to use their funds and to find organizations that will use it the most appropriately. My passion is to make this more localized so our employees who are working hard to make the money that allows us to distribute profits can have a bigger role in choosing where it goes."